Tag Archives: water rights

Washington State Drought Update

drought responseThe Yakima Valley is experiencing drought conditions not seen since the 1870s.

Water rights that were among the earliest in the Territory of Washington, to be used for irrigation, have been shut off in tributaries of the Yakima River due to extreme drought conditions.

Flows in Cowiche Creek and the Teanaway River are so dire that 129 irrigators with rights conferred as far back as 1873 must stop watering their orchards, hay and alfalfa crops on some 2,153 acres. Read more about the Washington Drought here: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/drought/

Federal Drought Declaration

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 18 counties in Washington State as natural disaster areas because of the statewide drought.  Farmers in these counties will now be eligible for low interest emergency loans to help defray crop and business losses incurred because of the drought.  Eligible counties are:  Adams, Benton, Columbia, Douglas, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, King, Klickitat, Kittitas, Lewis, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pierce, Skamania, Walla Walla, Whitman and Yakima.

2015 Drought Disaster Updates

This map shows designations due to drought across the country under USDA’s amended rule. Any county declared a primary (red) or contiguous (orange) disaster county makes producers in that county eligible for certain emergency aid. For a text list of counties designated disaster areas, click here.

On May 15th, Governor Inslee declared a statewide drought in Washington, with the legislature allocating $16 million in funds. Some of those funds are to go towards education.

Washington State Department of Ecology recognizes and promotes Rainwater Collection as part of the solution. To read more about how to conserve water, read he article “Water Smart, not Water short” 5 ways to Secure water for Washington’s  Future.

Teanaway River photo courtesy of Department of Ecology

Skagit County Water Rights Battle


The ongoing battle of water rights continues in Skagit County – with Senate Bills 5129, 5136, & 5407 introduced by Republican Senators Bailey & Pearson. The bills, if passed, would repeal some in stream flow rules from the original 2001 ruling. 

On January 15, 2015, Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon denied the petition to reallocate water from the Skagit river and its tributaries.  According to an article in The Skagit Valley Herald “In her response to the petition, Bellon said that finding durable, legal water solutions for homes and businesses was a priority for Ecology, and that they are “working very hard to help resolve water supply concerns for Skagit Basin residents.” 

Also mentioned in the GoSkagit.com article, Zach Barborinas representing Just Water Alliance, commented that “Ecology should set aside water first and for most for human domestic use.”

Swinomish Tribe Chairman Brian Cladoosby stated “the tribe has a high threshold for lawsuits, but if parties break an agreement with the tribe or break the law, the tribe is willing to go to court.”

The three senate bills introduced by the Senate Committee challenges the 2001 ruling of exempt wells in the Skagit river basin and its tributaries which according to Ecology and the Swinomish tribe “would adversely effect salmon habitat.”

Since rainwater collection for potable use was approved by Skagit County in 2014 for single family residence, a solution to this lengthy expensive battle could be readily at hand. Promotion, incentives, or grants for the age-old practice of rainwater harvesting should be in place to supply residences affected by this ruling. Rainwater Collection is a safe, viable source of water, and is most often a cleaner source than well water. The Department of Ecology states that rainwater collection is beneficial to in stream flow rates and salmon habitat.